Henry P. Costa, head of the Council of Patriots (CoP), appears to be enjoying the hospitality of the Sierra Leonean Government, having landed in that neighboring country following his secret departure from Liberia on Sunday, January 12. Mr. Costa had been invited earlier for investigation at the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) concerning his acquisition of a laissez-passer that the LIS says was ‘forged.’
As he was preparing to go to the LIS Headquarters last week, Costa posted on Facebook his concerns about the huge presence of officers of LIS and Police in the vicinity of the Immigration headquarters. For that, he and his lawyer refused to go for the investigation. Later, it became known that he had departed Liberia through Sierra Leone for the United States, even though he was banned by the Liberian government from traveling back to the US after the January 6 protest.
Amid speculations that Costa had been arrested by Sierra Leone authorities, the government of Sierra Leone through its Minister of Information and Communication, Mohammed R. Swaray, promised to protect the rights of Henry P. Costa.
“The Bio Administration will not take dictation from any government regarding the ongoing saga involving the head of the COP,” Minister Swaray told the BBC Focus on Africa program.
Confirming that the Government of Liberia had requested the Sierra Leonean Government to extradite Mr. Costa, Minister Swaray said: “We just want to ensure that we fulfill his rights, he himself can attest to that, he’s been very well treated, and we cannot take dictation from any other government, we are a democracy.”
Minister Swaray added that, while there is some cooperation with Liberia regarding the request from immigration authorities, it has no intention of straying from its democratic principles. He clarified that Costa is not in detention; that he is enjoying full human rights because they are a sovereign democratic nation that does not take instructions from other people.
Mr. Swaray assured Liberians and supporters of Costa harboring suspicions that light is at the end of the tunnel. “I can only say to those Liberians thinking that way to continue to be glued to the radio, we are doing what we need to do now and soon we will do what’s right without compromising or jeopardizing our credentials as a democratic, freedom-loving and accountable administration.”
Before that, the Civil Society Organizations in Sierra Leone had held a press conference calling on their government not to turn Mr. Costa over to the Government of Liberia, citing a reason that the government was only after him because he is vocal stance in exposing the government of its deeds and leading peaceful protests against ills practiced by officials of the Liberian government. The CSO group then cautioned the Government of Sierra Leone not to treat Costa as a criminal but should be given due regard and his rights should be respected and protected while in Sierra Leone.
“We believe that Mr. Costa’s right to demonstrate is guaranteed under both Liberian and international law, and we strongly condemn the Liberian government’s attempts to punish him for exercising his right,” the CSOs said.
The CSOs added: “We urge the Government of Sierra Leone to immediately release Mr. Costa and allow him to travel to the United States of America or his preferred destination. We further urge the Government of Sierra Leone to reject an extradition request from the Liberian government as we are reliably informed that, if extradited to Liberia, Mr. Costa will be severely tortured by the Weah administration.”
“Should the Sierra Leone Government extradite Costa to Liberia, it will be equally blamed for any abuses or violations to which he may be subjected. This will certainly have far-reaching implication for Sierra Leone’s human rights credentials and its international image,” the CSOs said.
Meanwhile, Liberian President George Weah’s office has dismissed allegations and insinuations by Costa that the administration is threatening his life. In a statement issued Wednesday, January 15, the President’s office said “the Weah administration respects the sanctity of human life and the fundamental rights of people, and would always do everything to protect all citizens and foreigners within its borders without discrimination.”
The President’s office added that over the last 24 months, it has always demonstrated extreme tolerance by providing security for dissenting and agitating citizens and will continue to do so within the confines of the laws in the coming years.
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio yesterday ordered the release of Costa from custody and denied the request from the government to have him returned to Liberia.
Before his departure from Liberia, Costa was invited by the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) for questing about the laissez-passer he used to enter Liberia on December 19, 2019, to stage the planned ‘Weah Step down Campaign’.
But after honoring the initial visit to the LIS, Costa said he felt threatened by the process and escaped to neighboring Sierra Leone.
After waiting for few days without seeing Mr. Costa, the LIS issued an ultimatum, demanding his appearance no later than 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, or face arrest. On the very Wednesday morning, Costa posted on Facebook that he was in the hands of security in Sierra Leone and they were very nice to him, urging his supporters not to panic.
The decision of LIS came from Costa’s alleged failure to appear on two different occasions at the (LIS) headquarters to answer questions pertaining his acquisition of a laissez-passer through the assistance of Sylvester T. Nah (as named by Costa) a few weeks ago, prior to his arrival into the country ahead of the 30 December 2019 protest which was postponed to January 6, 2020.
Meanwhile, Costa was cleared to depart Sierra Leone, as he wished.